Check back here for the latest news on the coronavirus and its impacts around Santa Cruz County. The most recent updates are added at the top.
Sept. 24, 4pm: ‘Significant’ outbreak at rehab facility; ninth county death related to Covid-19
A total of 27 residents and four staff members of Watsonville Post Acute Center have tested positive for Covid-19 since July 19, and the facility has enacted several safety and infection protocols to try to combat the virus’ spread.
The most recent cases—two patients—were announced Wednesday.
The patients are being kept in isolation, and the employees are in self-isolation at home until cleared by a physician to return to work, facility manager Gerald Hunter said in a post on the company’s website.
“The facility continues to work with Public Health and other governmental agencies to ensure the safety of both residents and staff,” he wrote.
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel during a Thursday morning press conference called the number of cases “a very significant and worrisome outbreak.”
It is unclear how the outbreak started, Newel said, but was likely an employee, since residents typically do not leave.
The center, Newel added, was following all necessary cleaning and safety protocols.
“From everything we’ve seen, they were doing everything possible to prevent this type of outbreak and following all of the guidelines,” she said.
Also at the press conference, Newel announced the county’s ninth Covid-19-related death, this one a Latinx woman in her 60s. County officials are waiting for confirmation that an additional two deaths were caused by the virus, Newel said.
The county now has 2,319 cases of Covid-19, 306 of which are active. A total of 2,000 patients have recovered, and 149 required hospitalization, Newel said.
Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been 787,470 Covid-19 cases and 15,204 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Santa Cruz County remains on the red tier of California’s four-tier system, and will stay there for at least another two weeks, Newel said. The less restrictive tier allows some businesses and schools to reopen. Some private schools, she added, have done so.
After appearing to taper off, Newel said Covid-19 cases have started to rise again. Two factors, she explained, were parties over Labor Day weekend and also the number of fire victims seeking shelter when the CZU Lightning Complex displaced people from their homes.
Hunter announced on Sept. 18 that two patients had tested positive, and four days later that number jumped to 25. The first cases—two employees—were announced on July 19. On Aug. 4 an additional employee that did not work with patients also tested positive.
Overall, the virus continues to have a disproportionate impact on people of color and residents of South County, with 66.5% of known positive results coming in from Latino residents, who represent just 33.5% of the population. County officials have said that those numbers may stem in part from the fact that people of color are more likely to be essential workers.
Also, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board voted unanimously last week to develop stronger rules to protect workers in all industries from COVID-19 in the workplace. The board was responding to a petition submitted by a coalition of workers and advocates urging the body to take emergency action as workplaces have become ground zero in the fight against Covid-19.
A Cal/OSHA press release noted that the pandemic has devastated the meat processing, garment, grocery and fast food industries—with disproportionate impacts to low-income workers and immigrants. The agency will move forward to adopt an emergency standard as soon as November.
Health Department Director Mimi Hall stressed that the public should keep following social distancing guidelines.
Challenging locals to stay to not get complacent, Hall added that the possibility of a vaccine is not “the magic bullet.”
“It takes a lot of action on behalf of every single person in our community to do what we’ve been asking all of these months: to take these precautions that ensure that we are reducing the risk of transmission and exposure,” she explained.
Additionally, Newel said Californians can expect guidance soon on how to safely celebrate Halloween.
She added that she has seen a draft version of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order and that gatherings will not be allowed.
“No haunted houses. No big parties, no small parties,” Newel said. “We will be messaging on, if you’re going to trick-or-treat, how to do that more safely.” For information on the nursing home outbreak, visit watsonvillepostacute.com.
Sept. 16, 11am: Eighth county resident dies of Covid-19
An eighth county resident has died of Covid-19, the Santa Cruz County Public Health Division said in a press release today.
The resident was a Hispanic man in his early 40s who lived in South County. He had underlying health conditions, but the county said Covid-19 was the primary cause of his death.
The county noted there is still a disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases among South County residents and in the Latino community. The county’s health dashboard shows more than 62% of all Covid-19 cases have been among South County residents, despite that area representing just 29% of the county population. More than half of all known cases countywide have been in Watsonville.
There have been 2,096 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 236 are known active cases, according to information last updated Monday evening by county health officials.
Statewide as of Monday, there have been 760,013 Covid-19 cases and 14,451 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Sept. 15, 12pm: Supervisor Zach Friend hosts discussion with vaccinologist
This evening, Santa Cruz County Supervisor Zach Friend will host another one of his weekly virtual town hall calls related to the Covid-19 pandemic—this one with an internationally recognized vaccinologist with more than two decades of experience.
Pediatrics professor Maria Elena Bottazzi is co-director of Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Bottazzi currently serves as co-chair of the New Vaccines and Therapeutics Taskforce of the Lancet Commission on Covid-19.
The discussion will be held from 6-7pm. To join the conversation, call 831-454-2222. The meeting identification number is 145384#.
There have been 2,096 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 236 are known active cases, according to information last updated Monday evening by county health officials. Seven people in the county have died from Covid-19, 135 have required hospitalization, and 1,853 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 757,778 Covid-19 cases and 14,385 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Statewide, the outlook on the pandemic has improved slightly. The Los Angeles Times reported that the seven-day average positive test rate statewide has dropped to 3.5%, the lowest level since March and that the number of new Covid-19 cases is at its lowest level since June. The San Jose Mercury News reported that hospitalizations have dropped to their lowest level since early April.
The overlapping consequences of poor air quality from California’s fires on top of the pandemic could still have troubling implications for people’s lungs, and county health officials say locals should monitor the conditions. A number of websites and apps track air quality. The county recommends using air.mbard.org.
Sept. 8, 1:30pm: Economic restrictions loosen
Santa Cruz County today moved into a less restrictive tier of the state’s new Covid-19 reopening plan, allowing some businesses to reopen their indoor services with capacity limits and other modifications.
Personal care services such as waxing, nails and massage, restaurants, places of worship, movie theaters, gyms and fitness centers, along with museums, zoos and aquariums can be open indoors with modifications starting today.
The county, along with four others including neighboring Santa Clara, moved from the Purple or Widespread Tier to the Red or Substantial Tier of the state’s reopening plan.
School openings for in-person instruction can only be considered once a county has been in the Red Tier for 14 days and are ultimately decided by local school boards and administrators, the county noted in a press release today.
In that press release, the county also warned that they expect another surge of Covid-19 cases after some 77,000 people had to evacuate due to the CZU Lightning Complex fire. Many people who had to evacuate may have had to mix with other people from outside their household. If the rates of Covid-19 rise, the county may wind up back in the Purple or Widespread Tier and see a return of economic restrictions.
There have been 1,931 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 198 are known active cases, according to information last updated Monday by county health officials. Seven people in the county have died from Covid-19, 127 have required hospitalization, and 1,726 have recovered.
Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 735,235 Covid-19 cases and 13,726 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Sept. 4, 5pm: Economic relief options
Santa Cruz County is offering a variety of relief options for individuals, businesses and groups affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis.
The Santa Cruz County Cares Recovery Program is offering up to $15,000 per eligible small business in one-time funds, with up to $1 million that can be distributed through the program. Grants are also available for nonprofits and community partners that are responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. The funding comes from the federal CARES Act.
Applications for the CARES Act grant funds are being accepted through Sept. 15. Learn more at sccvitality.org/Business/CARESGrant.aspx.
The county has additionally launched a CARES Rental Assistance Program for residents in unincorporated areas of the county who meet certain income requirements and have experienced income losses related to Covid-19.
Grant recipients will be selected through a list prioritized through a random drawing. The deadline to apply for the first random drawing is Sept. 15. Learn more at cabinc.org or sccoplanning.com/PlanningHome/Housing.aspx.
Santa Cruz County is reminding would-be beachgoers that local beaches are closed for much of the Labor Day weekend.
Beaches in unincorporated parts of the county will be closed from 5am Saturday, Sept. 5, though 5pm Monday, Sept. 7, except for 4-8pm on Saturday and Sunday. People will be allowed to make beach crossings all weekend to access the ocean for activities such as surfing, paddle-boarding, boogie-boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. The city of Santa Cruz has the same restrictions in effect for Main and Cowell beaches, and other jurisdictions around Monterey Bay have also enacted closures aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19.
State beaches will be closed, too, and several state parks in the county are closed or have restrictions in place due to the CZU Lightning Complex fire.
Poor air quality is also a potential issue for outdoor time this weekend. Santa Cruz is under a regional heat advisory from 11am Saturday through 9pm Monday, and the anticipated heat wave is accompanied by a stagnant air pattern that may keep skies smoky. Air quality information is available at air.mbard.org.
There have been 1,923 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, including 273 active known cases, according to information last updated Thursday by county health officials. Seven people in the county have died from Covid-19, 126 have required hospitalization, and more than 1,600 have recovered.
Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been 717,177 Covid-19 cases and 13,327 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Aug. 28, 3:30pm: State creates new reopening system
Gov. Gavin Newsom today revealed what he called a new, more “stringent” four-tiered reopening system that allows counties to open their economies depending on Covid-19 case and test positivity rates.
The new system replaces the state’s data monitoring list and removes many of the old benchmarks counties had to meet to reopen swaths of their economies amid the ongoing pandemic. Now, counties can begin to reopen if their news cases per 100,000 residents per day and positivity rates start to decline.
These are the four tiers in the new system:
Thirty-eight counties, including Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Monterey, were in the Purple or Widespread Tier as of today. Each county will be reassessed every Tuesday starting on Sept. 8, Newsom said.
A county must spend at least 21 days in one tier before it can move to a less restrictive one, and it must meet the metrics for the less restrictive tier for 14 consecutive days.
However, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties could soon move from the Widespread Tier to the less-restrictive Substantial Tier because they had already spent 14 days off the old state monitoring list, Newsom said.
Santa Cruz County should move to the Substantial Tier on Sept. 8 barring an increase in case rates, according to a county press release today.
That move would allow several sectors deemed non-essential by state health orders to reopen their indoor operations with modifications. Restaurants, for example, could offer indoor services at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Some businesses will not have to wait until that change comes to reopen. Barbershops and hair salons can reopen Monday, Aug. 31, and so too can malls at 25% capacity. Other personal care services such as nails and waxing are still not permitted to operate indoors at this time.
School openings for in-person instruction can only be considered once a county has been in the Substantial Tier for 14 days and are subject to decisions by local school boards and administrators. No Santa Cruz County schools may open for in-person instruction at this time.
County- and industry-specific restrictions can be found at covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy.
Counties that do not meet their current tier’s metrics will be moved back into more restrictive tiers. If a county’s case and test positivity rate fall into two different tiers, the county will be assigned to the more restrictive tier.
Newsom also said the state has an “emergency break” set up in case counties see spikes in hospitalizations or ICU visits. Click here to watch Newsom’s full briefing, including an update on the fires around the state.
There have been 1,735 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, including 270 known active cases, according to information last updated Thursday by county health officials. Some 120 people have required hospitalization while sick with Covid-19, and 1,458 people have recovered.
The county previously reported that eight residents had died of Covid-19. Since the county found out one of the people who died was a resident of Mexico and not of Santa Cruz County, the county dashboard now reflects that seven residents have died of Covid-19.
For local information on COVID-19, go to santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211. Residents may also call 831-454-4242 from 8am-5pm, Monday through Friday.
Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been 683,529 Covid-19 cases and 12,550 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Aug. 18, 4pm: Beach restrictions set for Labor Day weekend
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted today to put some restrictions on beach access during the Labor Day weekend.
Beaches in the unincorporated parts of the county will be closed from 5am Saturday, Sept. 5, though 5pm Monday, Sept. 7, except for 4-8pm on Saturday and Sunday. People will also be allowed to make beach crossings all weekend to access the ocean for activities such as surfing, paddle-boarding, boogie-boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking
The restrictions are aimed at discouraging non-essential travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Other jurisdictions throughout the Monterey Bay area are expected to have similar beach restrictions in place, according to a Santa Cruz County press release.
There have been 1,505 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 1,091 are known active cases, according to information last updated Monday by county health officials. Eight people in the county have died from Covid-19.
Statewide, there have been 628,031 Covid-19 cases and 11,242 deaths, according to information last updated Sunday by the California Department of Public Health.
Aug. 17, 2pm: County removed from state watch list
Santa Cruz County is no longer on the state data monitoring list as of Friday, Aug. 14, the county announced today in a press release.
“Being removed from the monitoring list is an indication of reduced spread of Covid-19 and is the first step toward the lifting of economic measures and school restrictions,” according to the county. “However, counties must be off the data monitoring list for 14 consecutive days for measures and restrictions to be lifted, and no immediate changes to those operations may be implemented at this time.”
Businesses that anticipate they might be able to reopen can find sector-specific guidance on the county website.
School reopenings will be subject to decisions by local school boards and administrators. Santa Cruz County schools had previously set a plan for distance learning with the start of the school year.
The county noted that people should continue taking steps to protect themselves and the community from Covid-19, including avoiding indoor gatherings with people not in the same household, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing a face mask.
If rates of Covid-19 increase again, the county may find itself back on the state watch list.
There have been 1,454 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, of which 1,055 are known active cases, according to information last updated Sunday by county health officials. Eight people in the county have died from Covid-19, 107 people have required hospitalization, and 392 have recovered.
Statewide, there have been 621,562 Covid-19 cases and 11,224 deaths, according to information last updated Saturday by the California Department of Public Health.
Aug. 14, 11am: County death toll rises
Two more people in Santa Cruz County have died from Covid-19, county health officials announced today. That brings the total deaths to eight following two deaths last week.
The county released more information about the two people who died last week, saying in a statement that one was a man in his early 60s and another was a woman in her late 90s. Both had underlying health conditions, and Covid-19 was a contributing factor in their deaths. The woman was hospitalized for more than two weeks, according to the county, while the man did not seek medical care.
The county urged residents to seek medical care when they need it, noting that the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides access to coverage for Covid-19 testing and related treatment from a qualified Medi-Cal provider at no cost to the person being treated. This coverage is for people whose insurance doesn’t cover Covid-19 care or who don’t have insurance at all.
More than 100 people in the county have required hospitalization while sick with Covid-19.
There have been 1,371 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, including 989 known active cases, according to information last updated Thursday by county health officials. Those numbers may be an undercount, though, due to a computer glitch that created a backlog of almost 300,000 tests in the state’s reporting program. The glitch has been fixed, but a county spokesperson said today it could still take a few more days for the disease control team to review all of the backlogged data from the state.
Statewide, as of Wednesday, there have been 593,141 Covid-19 cases and 10,808 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Aug. 4, 4pm: County approves fine for not following health orders
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to approve a fine for violations of a state or local health order, including the requirement that people wear a face covering in certain situations to help slow the spread of Covid-19.
Violations of state and local health orders are already a misdemeanor under state law, with penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail. The new county code would allow for “lower-level remedies,” with a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year, and $500 for the third offense within a year. The county health orders are aligned with the continued statewide stay-at-home order. More details about the orders, including face covering requirements, can be found on the county health agency website.
Aug. 4, 3pm: County launches safety program for businesses
Santa Cruz County launched a program offering signage to businesses that follow public health guidelines. The voluntary “Blue Check Program” will give businesses a sign to show customers that they are complying with health and safety practices amid the pandemic. To receive the signage, businesses must show they enforce physical distancing, the use of face coverings, limits on the number of people in a store at one time, and disinfection of shared equipment, among other things. Businesses interested in participating can learn more at sccvitality.org.
Covid-19 response webinar
City of Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings, Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel and consultant Nicole Young will host a discussion about the local Covid-19 response and recovery on Friday, Aug. 7, at 4pm. Learn more about how to join the event here.
A virtual town hall about Covid-19 is also planned for Thursday, Aug. 6, for Spanish-speaking business owners. Santa Cruz County health officials and other community leaders will share information and answer questions. Anyone interested in participating can learn more at elpajarocdc.org on our events page and at tinyurl.com/covidysunegocio.
City park closures
The city of Santa Cruz will close some facilities starting Friday, Aug. 7, and cancel some programs for the fall 2020 season. Cancellations for fall include athletics and leagues along with community events at the Civic Auditorium, and closures include parts of DeLaveaga Park and Laurel Park. The city will continue to provide online programming, and a fall activity guide will post next week. For more information, visit santacruzparksandrec.com.
There have been 1,196 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Monday by county health officials. Four people in the county have died from Covid-19, 90 people have required hospitalization, and 367 have recovered. Statewide as of today, there have been 519,427 Covid-19 cases and 9,501 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 27, 5:20pm: Closures go into effect Tuesday
The continued Covid-19 surge in Santa Cruz County is triggering additional business closures starting at 12:01am Tuesday, July 28.
The California Department of Public Health has added Santa Cruz County to its order modifying or closing several types of businesses, according to a county press release. The modifications affect gyms, personal care services, places of worship and cultural ceremonies, offices for non-critical infrastructure sectors, and indoor shopping malls.
Retail and outdoor dining are not affected.
The California Department of Public Health flagged Santa Cruz County last week due its growing case count. Find out more about what’s ahead in our coverage here.
July 27, 4pm: New Covid-19 tool for employers; family lunch extension
The prevalence of Covid-19 in the community is increasing, and concern over workplace transmission has grown along with it.
To minimize the impacts among employees and to speed up contact tracing investigations of Covid-19 cases, Santa Cruz County is providing local employers with tools to help manage coronavirus transmission. Those tools include detailed guidance on prevention and management of workplace cases, as well as information on the rights and responsibilities of employers. The employer toolkit is accessible at santacruzhealth.org/employers, with a link available on the main coronavirus site at santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus.
The county urges employers to continue social distancing protocols and mandate basic safety practices, including face coverings, staying home when sick and washing hands frequently with soap and water.
For local information on Covid-19, go to santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211. Additionally, residents may call 831-454-4242 between the hours of 8am and 6pm, Monday-Friday.
Also, the annual Summer Lunch program, sponsored by La Manzana Community Resources, a program of Community Bridges, has been extended into August. Although it was originally slated to wrap up at the end of July, that would leave kids without access to free lunches for the last several weeks of summer vacation.
Kids can pick up free lunches at sites in Santa Cruz and Watsonville through mid-August. Santa Cruz sites will remain open until August 7, and Watsonville sites are open until August 14.
For more information, text “Lunches” to 833-421-0991. Free meals will be provided to all children through age 18—no eligibility documentation needed—from 12pm-1pm daily.
There have been 920 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday by county health officials. Four people in the county have died from Covid-19, 69 have required hospitalization, and 343 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 460,550 Covid-19 cases and 8,445 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 20, 5:15pm: Santa Cruz County schools to use distance learning in fall
Santa Cruz County schools will start the upcoming school year with distance learning due to the continued surge in local Covid-19 cases.
The move comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom last week laid out plans for how schools should reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For schools to have in-person classes this fall, Newsom said that the county in which the school is located must be off the state’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.
Santa Cruz County met the state criteria to be on the state monitoring list as of today, according to a press release from the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Though the county does meet one of the criteria for the state monitoring list, based on the positive tests over the past two weeks, Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin tells GT over email that county officials “have not been notified that we are on the watchlist. We expect to be.”
Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said at a press conference Thursday that the county is teetering close to the state thresholds that would require more industries to shut down.
Pajaro Valley Unified School District had already decided to begin its school year with distance learning for all students when classes resume on Aug. 17.
The county framework for reopening schools can be viewed here.
County officials also said today that a resident at the Salvation Army Shelter in Watsonville tested positive for Covid-19. All shelter residents and staff were then tested, and seven of them tested positive for Covid-19. They are all asymptomatic, according to a county press release.
Shelter operations have been temporarily suspended following the known cases, and “shelter residents have been relocated to support isolation,” the county said. “Following the isolation period and a thorough site cleaning, operations of the shelter are expected to resume.” More information on the county’s response to Covid-19 in the homeless community can be found at homelessactionpartnership.org.
There have been 772 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, including 448 active known cases, according to information last updated Friday by county health officials. Three people in the county have died from Covid-19, 59 people have required hospitalization, and 321 have recovered.
Statewide as of today, there have been 391,538 Covid-19 cases and 7,694 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 17, 4:45pm: Newsom issues guidelines for schools
Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced new criteria on how schools should operate amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Here are the five parts of Newsom’s plan:
- For schools to have in-person classes this fall, Newsom said that the county in which the school is located must be off the state’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.
- All staff and students in the third grade and up must wear a mask at all times. Students in the second grade and below are encouraged to wear a mask or a face shield.
- All staff must maintain a six-foot distance between each other and students at all times. Schools will be required to have daily temperature checks and use hand-washing stations.
- School staff will be required to get tested for Covid-19 on a regular basis and the state contact tracing workforce will be directed to prioritize schools.
- For schools that can’t return to in-person classes, teachers will be required to have live daily interactions with their students. Teachers must assign work equivalent to that done during in-person classes. English language learners and special education students should have adapted lessons.
As we reported this week, at Pajaro Valley Unified School District they’re planning to begin the school year on Aug. 17 with distance learning for all students.
The decisions on how to start the next school year come as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said at a press conference Thursday that, given the rapidly rising Covid-19 case rate, the potential for community spread is now quite high.
There have been 736 known total Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, including 412 known active cases, according to information last updated Thursday evening by county health officials. Three people in the county have died from Covid-19, 58 have required hospitalization, and 321 have recovered.
Statewide as of today, there have been 366,164 Covid-19 cases and 7,475 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 15, 11:15am: METRO lands federal grant
Santa Cruz METRO received a $20.6 million federal grant to help the transit agency deal with the coronavirus crisis.
The money comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed in March. The funds target operating expenses, including reimbursement for operating costs, lost revenue, the purchase of personal protective equipment, and paying the administrative leave of personnel due to reduced service.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on public transit ridership and infrastructure across the Central Coast,” Congressman Jimmy Panetta said Tuesday in a press release. “This CARES Act grant will help the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District support agency operations and purchase personal protective equipment to keep its essential workers and valuable customers safe.”
METRO Board Chair Mike Rotkin said in a statement that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused METRO significant revenue losses through local sales tax revenue, farebox revenue and state funding. He said the grant will offset lost revenue for the “short-term.”
In other recent Santa Cruz METRO news, its decision to increase its passenger capacity by 50% in an effort to accommodate more riders has raised concerns within the union representing the bus operators still working during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have more on that in a story here.
July 13, 3pm: Newsom rolls back reopening statewide
Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a statewide rollback on reopening effective today as Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in California.
Bars must cease all operations, both indoors and outdoors, effective today. Indoor operations must now also be closed for restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment venues, zoos, museums and cardrooms. Newsom said every county in the state must “expand opportunities for outdoor operations in these specific categories.”
This rollback reflects the “dimmer switch” approach that has served as the foundation to reopening the economy, Newsom said in a video statement, where businesses may have to go through periods of opening and closing as coronavirus trend lines become “points of concern.”
Newsom issued additional restrictions for 29 counties on the state’s watch list. Those counties will have to close indoor operations for fitness centers, places of worship, hair salons, malls, and more.
Watch Newsom’s full briefing here.
July 13, 11:30am: County conversation looks at disparities
An online conversation Tuesday evening will discuss the effects of Covid-19 on the Latino community as the new coronavirus continues to disproportionately affect Latinos. In California, 55% of all Covid-19 cases are among Latinos, including two of every three cases among children, according to the Santa Cruz County Public Health Division.
The virtual discussion on Tuesday, July 14, from 6-7:30pm, will be hosted by the Thriving Immigrants Collaborative, including steering agencies Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County and Salud Para La Gente. Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel will join the conversation, which will “include discussion of current trends and measures the community can take to protect itself,” according to a county press release.
The event will be available in English, Spanish and Mixteco. Registration is required and can be completed here.
The conversation comes as surging coronavirus cases are leading a growing number of counties across the state to revise their reopening plans. More than 20 counties are on the state’s watch list due to showing “indicators of concern” such as increasing transmission and hospitalization rates from the coronavirus.
There have been 569 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday by county health officials. Three people in the county have died from Covid-19, 54 have required hospitalization, and 308 have recovered.
Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 320,804 Covid-19 cases and 7,017 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
For local information on Covid-19, go to santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus, call 211 or text “COVID19” to 211211. County residents can also call 831-454-4242 from 8am-6pm Monday through Friday.
July 11, 6:40pm Poet and Patriot closes, blames pandemic
The Poet and Patriot, Santa Cruz’s Irish-themed downtown bar, is closed and will not reopen, the business announced on Instagram today.
“We have been a Santa Cruz staple for 38 years and it was not an easy decision to come to, but unfortunately, it’s another tragedy of Covid 19,” the Poet’s post stated.
Thomas Todd—the bar’s former trivia night host, who recently moved from northern California to New York—found out about the news through a friend on social media and was crushed.
“It just broke my heart,” says Todd, who hosted Sunday trivia nights at the Poet from 2009 through 2014. “Absolutely broke my heart. I haven’t been in California for five months. I had so many plans to go back, and one of the top three places I knew that I had to stop by and see was the Poet and the Patriot.”
He adds that, when a business closes under normal circumstances, there is usually a big party, one last hurrah, when everyone gets to say goodbye in person. With the Poet, it doesn’t sound like that will be happening, says Todd, a former Jeopardy contestant, who coped with the pandemic and his unexpected joblessness in his own way by launching an online trivia company that’s grown more successful than he ever imagined it could.
The Poet and Patriot painted its recent decision as an agonizing one.
“We want to extend a huge thank you to our friends/family/patrons for supporting us through thick and thin,” the Poet’s Instagram post stated. “We know we won’t be the only business to reach this fate but it certainly puts a hole in our hearts. Sláinte to the poets, to the patriots, to the weirdos, to the labor union workers, EVERYONE who felt at home in the Poet. Always remember the tiniest waves can still rock the boat. Goodbye for now.”
As the post indicates, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on business has been severe. Many downtown businesses have struggled, and the Poet was not the first downtown bar to close. The pub and restaurant 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall closed in March.
Some businesses in Santa Cruz County have been able to pull in forgivable Payment Protection Program loans from the federal government. More than 4,000 businesses and nonprofits have benefited from the federal assistance so far, as GT reported on Thursday.
There have been 568 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Friday night by county health officials. Three people in the county have died from Covid-19, 53 have required hospitalization, and 302 have recovered. Statewide as of Friday, there have been 312,344 Covid-19 cases and 6,945 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 8, 2:30pm: Testing troubles
Obtaining a Covid-19 test in Watsonville is still a challenge for some, as long waits and limited options are plaguing those who might have been exposed and are asymptomatic but need a test to find out if they can safely return to work. Our partner paper The Pajaronian has more details on testing capacity and demand.
The county reported 36 new known cases of Covid-19 on Monday, surpassing the previous record set on Friday, July 3, with 29 new cases. But Monday’s tally includes new cases recorded over the July 4-5 holiday weekend.
“Each of the last three Tuesdays have included a ‘spike’ that is artificial in that it’s an accumulation of weekend cases,” Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin tells GT over email. “We just can’t continue having public health nurses working seven days a week.”
There have been 503 total known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Tuesday by county health officials. Three people in the county have died from Covid-19, 51 have required hospitalization, and 289 have recovered. Some 67% of ICU beds in the county are available, according to state data, and 94% of ventilators in the county are available.
Statewide as of Monday, there have been 277,774 Covid-19 cases and 6,448 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
July 2, 11:40am: Cases continue surging
There have been more than 100 new known cases of Covid-19 in Santa Cruz County in less than two weeks as the coronavirus continues spreading across the state.
The past two weeks have included the two largest single-day jumps in new cases in the county since it started tracking the spread of the virus in early March, with 21 new cases on June 22 and 22 new cases on Monday, June 29. The total number of known cases rose from 302 on June 21 to 410 as of Wednesday, according to county health data. That means the past two weeks have accounted for around one-fourth of all known cases in the county.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered bars and restaurants in 19 counties to close their indoor dining options for at least three weeks, as the state tries to quell the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases. Santa Cruz was not included on Newsom’s list.
Three people in Santa Cruz County have died from Covid-19, including one for whom Covid-19 was a significant contributing factor in his death but not the primary cause. While 48 people have required hospitalization due to Covid-19, 254 people have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been 232,657 Covid-19 cases and 6,090 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
June 25, 12:15pm: Santa Cruz County beaches to reopen
Santa Cruz County’s daily restrictions on beaches will be lifted Friday, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel announced Thursday.
“It’s become impossible for law enforcement to continue to enforce that closure,” Newel said. “People were not willing to be governed anymore, in that regard.”
The local shelter-in-place order will also be allowed to be expire on July 6. The county will then follow the statewide stay-at-home order.
June 25, 10:15am: County records third death related to Covid-19
A third Santa Cruz County resident has died of complications from Covid-19, county health officials announced today.
The man, who died last week, was in his mid-90s and in hospice care. He lived in mid-county and is thought to have contracted the illness from close contact with an infected person.
“Covid-19 was a significant contributing factor in his death, but not the primary cause,” according to a county press release. “After consultation with state public health officials, the county is listing his death as Covid-19-related.”
In a written statement, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said, “Our hearts go out to those whose lives were touched by this individual. We at County Public Health continue to do all we can to assure that these occasions are as few as possible, and want to remind everyone that COVID-19 remains a significant threat to all Santa Cruz County residents, but especially the elderly and medically vulnerable among us.”
The first death in the county from Covid-19 was a male in his early 70s on March 28, and the second death was a male in his late 60s on April 14.
There have been 337 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Wednesday evening by county health officials. Forty-one people in the county have required hospitalization, and 228 people have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been 190,222 Covid-19 cases and 5,632 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. The state has a public watch list of counties that are showing “indicators of concern” related to the spread of the coronavirus as reopenings continue. Neighboring Santa Clara County to the north is on that list. Santa Cruz County currently is not.
June 24, 11:30am: Santa Cruz County sees biggest single-day jump in Covid-19 cases
Santa Cruz County on Monday saw its largest single-day jump in known Covid-19 cases since it started tracking the spread of the virus in early March.
A spike of 21 additional cases was recorded Monday. The county’s active known cases reached 107 according to data last updated Tuesday, raising the total case count to 330. Only 38 of those county residents have required hospitalization, and 221 of them have recovered. Two people have died.
Cases in Watsonville also continue to rise, as nearly half of all known cases have been identified in the county’s southernmost city.
With 103 known cases, people between the ages of 18-34 make up the largest portion of the county’s Covid-19 cases. The county has conducted 15,020 tests to date.
June 19, 10am: Lending a “Screaming Hand” to safety
The iconic “Screaming Hand” logo has been reimagined to help raise awareness about the importance of clean hands amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
An updated Screaming Hand, with suds coming out of its mouth, reminds people that “Clean Hands Save Lives.” NHS Inc. donated the image to Santa Cruz County, which is using it for hundreds of floor decals that will be prioritized for placement in highly trafficked public and commercial areas across the county.
The signs are available at no cost. Businesses can request a sign by emailing [email protected].
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after being in a public space. That’s just one of its basic tips for how to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 117,000 people nationwide.
Wearing a face covering is another way to avoid spreading the virus. All Californians are now required to wear face coverings in high-risk settings under new guidance released Thursday. Santa Cruz County has had a face covering requirement in place since April.
There have been 283 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Thursday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 36 people have required hospitalization, and 218 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been 161,099 Covid-19 cases and 5,290 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
June 15, 12:50pm: Personal-care services reopening
After a three-month absence, the hum of hair clippers and tattoo machines is set to resume in Santa Cruz County.
The county’s Health Services Agency announced that businesses that provide personal-care services will be allowed to open on Friday, June 19. The businesses affected include hair salons, tattoo shops, nail salons, and cosmetologists, as well as providers of massage therapy, waxing, electrolysis, skin care, body art, and body piercing.
Still, it will be far from business as usual for salons and related businesses. They are now subject to new protocols designed to minimize the risk of the spread of Covid-19, including social distancing of at least six feet except when providing service that requires close contact, along with impermeable barriers between workstations. Workers are asked to wear masks and gloves at all times.
The county is also providing detailed protocols on cleaning and disinfecting for personal-care businesses, which could mean the end of such familiar touchstones of the salon experience as reception-area magazines, “test” or sample products, and water or coffee machines.
Clients and customers are also asked to wear face coverings, frequently wash hands, maintain six feet of space from others, and to stay home if they have any symptoms such as a cough or fever.
For more information, go to santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus. There have been 257 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday night by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 34 have required hospitalization, and 202 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, there have been 148,855 Covid-19 cases and 5,063 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
June 10, 11am: Santa Cruz County prepares to open, hotels, movie theaters and bars
Santa Cruz County is ready to welcome back visitors for the summer. Health leaders released new guidance taking effect Friday, June 12, allowing hotels, motels and vacation rentals to reopen.
And that isn’t all.
The county will also welcome back many more businesses and operations—movie theaters, arcades, museums, galleries, aquariums, gyms, swimming pools, campgrounds, tasting rooms, brewpubs and bars. The new order extends partial beach closures through July 6. After that, the county will reassess beach access going forward.
Not all businesses will be ready to reopen on Friday. Local business owners and managers will first need to implement new rules set by the state, including ones for employee screening, physical distancing, disinfecting and cleaning.
Many other changes are afoot, as well. Some Santa Cruz County libraries are now open for pickup and dropoff. Visit santacruzpl.org for more information.
County school officials confirmed Monday that schools will likely reopen for the upcoming school year, in line with guidelines from the state.
The city of Santa Cruz has not yet shut down a part of Pacific Avenue for its one-block pedestrian mall. City Principal Management Analyst Ralph Dimarucut says the street closure will happen Thursday or Friday.
The Great Plates Delivered program was set to expire today, but an extension from state and federal partners will allow it to continue through July 10. The program delivers fresh, nutritious meals to older residents, while supporting restaurateurs and caterers during the Covid-19 crisis.
Be sure to check out GT’s summer preview issue—all about enjoying the season, in spite of the pandemic. We have stories on outdoor recreation, restaurants, the Beach Boardwalk, and live music. We also recently spoke with a therapist about the effect that sheltering in place has on people’s mental health—and about how to cope. Additionally, we wrote about how to stay safe while the county allows activities to resume.
There have been 239 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information updated Tuesday night by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 34 have required hospitalization, and 197 have recovered. Statewide as of Monday, there have been 133,489 Covid-19 cases and 4,697 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
June 8, 1:40pm: Santa Cruz creates Pacific Avenue pedestrian mall; Boardwalk reopening; and the effects of protests
Last week, Santa Cruz City Manager Martín Bernal authorized temporary use of public streets and outdoor areas to give restaurants and retail establishments more outdoor space to serve customers. Bernal also established new social distancing requirements for sidewalk vendors.
Businesses interested in expanding into public spaces like sidewalks, alleyways and parking spaces can apply online at choosesantacruz.com/outdoorexpansion or contact Business Liaison Rebecca Unitt at [email protected] or 831-420-5157.
One of Bernal’s executive orders allows for the temporary closure of the 1100 block of Pacific Avenue, south of Lincoln Street and north of Cathcart Street, to vehicular and bicycle traffic starting this week—essentially creating a small pedestrian mall in downtown Santa Cruz. As of noon on Monday, city officials were unable to confirm whether Pacific Avenue would be closing today.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had a limited reopening over the weekend, opening up the doors of eateries like Barbary Coast Restaurant, Marini’s Candies, Carousel Cones and World Grill, as well as the souvenir shop Octopus’ Garden. Rides, arcades and mini-golf are all closed. Stay tuned for more information from Good Times this week.
National unrest over the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis prompted protests across the country. That increased activity sparked concern, given that someone infected with the novel coronavirus can spread the virus before they begin showing symptoms. Although Santa Cruz County health officials have not spoken about the protests, the New York City Health Department and an official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have suggested that protesters consider getting tested.
There have been 234 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday night by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 32 have required hospitalization, and 184 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, there have been 128,812 Covid-19 cases and 4,626 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
According to the latest information, 2.3% of those who are getting tested in Santa Cruz County are testing positive for the virus. It’s important to note that there is a lag in test results, all asymptomatic people are allowed to get tested, and no one knows how many infected people are going untested.
June 5, 11:10am: County unveils vendors for senior meal program that may soon expire
The Santa Cruz County government announced that five local food businesses have been chosen to deliver fresh, nutritious meals to hundreds of local seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Great Plates Delivered serves food to vulnerable older adults through a federal economic stimulus for restaurants. In May, Santa Cruz County sought applications from local restaurateurs and caterers to prepare and provide meals. A committee chose four restaurants and one caterer. The chosen businesses are Back Nine Grill and Bar, Johnny’s Harborside, Roaring Camp, Pearl of the Ocean, and Swing Time.
Great Plates Delivered began its meal deliveries during Memorial Day weekend, and it has now served thousands of meals to 413 participants, according to a county press release, with additional applicants pending approval. The program delivers more than 1,000 healthy meals to older adults each day, the county reported. The Area Agency on Aging, Community Bridges, 211 Santa Cruz County, Grey Bears, Senior Network Services, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Volunteer Center and the city of Watsonville all participated on the steering committee.
Great Plates Delivered will expire June 10 unless the federal government grants the state of California’s request for a 30-day extension. County leaders are awaiting FEMA’s response to the state. Seventy-five percent of Great Plates is funded through the federal CARES Act, with the state providing 18.75% and the rest coming from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County.
Also this week, the county approved a plan to expand outdoor shopping and dining, local court leaders laid out a plan to resume jury trials, and SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County leader Margaret Lapiz spoke to GT about the state of contact tracing.
The pace of new coronavirus cases appears to have slowed since the county first announced its post-Mother’s Day clusters, although the lag between new infections and positive results could be longer than two weeks. There have been 221 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Thursday at 5pm by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 32 have required hospitalization, and 177 have recovered. Statewide as of Thursday, there have been 119,807 Covid-19 cases and 4,422 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Santa Cruz County health leaders cancelled yesterday’s weekly press briefing without providing a reason.
June 1, 9am: State approves county’s reopening plan
The state approved Santa Cruz County’s application to move to Stage 2 of California’s reopening plan. The approval allows activities including dining at restaurants and the reopening of barbershops and hair salons, as long as practices are in place to help limit the spread of Covid-19.
Santa Cruz County Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel issued an order Saturday that went into effect immediately. The order mostly aligns with the state’s restrictions and regulations for Stage 2, while keeping in place the requirement for face coverings and limits on beach use.
There have been 217 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Sunday, May 31, by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 32 have required hospitalization, and 154 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, May 30, there have been 110,583 Covid-19 cases and 4,213 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 29, 12pm: Board approves county variance application
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to approve a variance application that will be submitted to the state.
The county’s application to move to Stage 2 of the state’s reopening plan now goes to the California Department of Public Health for approval. State review could take up to one week, according to county officials.
If approved, “the variance would allow local restaurants to offer limited indoor/outdoor dine-in services with modifications to protect the health and safety of staff and customers,” according to a county press release. “Barbershops/hair salons would also be allowed to offer limited services, such as haircuts, weaves and extensions, braiding, lock maintenance, wig maintenance, hair relaxing treatments and color services.”
The county does not have the authority to open up additional sectors of the economy. State guidance for establishments that would be allowed to reopen soon can be found at covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties.
There have been 206 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 30 people have required hospitalization, and 137 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been 101,697 Covid-19 cases and 3,973 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 27, 4pm: County moves up key step toward reopening
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors scheduled a special meeting for Friday, May 29, potentially charting a faster path to more reopenings under state guidelines.
The board will vote on whether to approve paperwork the county needs to submit to the state to apply for a variance. If approved by the board, the county’s application would then go to the California Department of Public Health for approval. State review could take up to one week, the county noted in a press release today. The board vote had initially been scheduled for the next regular meeting on June 2.
The variance would allow for the opening of shopping malls, swap meets, in-restaurant dining and schools—all with modifications. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday said counties that have met variance requirements and received approval from the state may also allow hair salons, barbershops and dine-in restaurants to reopen.
The county does not have the authority to open up additional sectors of the economy. State guidance for establishments that could reopen can be found at covid19.ca.gov/roadmap-counties.
Friday’s Board of Supervisors meeting can be viewed online at santacruzcounty.us.
There have been 205 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information last updated Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 30 people have required hospitalization, and 137 have recovered. Statewide as of Monday, there have been 96,773 Covid-19 cases and 3,814 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 26, 11am: Crowded beaches, reopenings expected
Over the weekend, groups of visitors crowded onto Santa Cruz County beaches, despite warnings from county Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel.
Although Monday was more low-key than previous Memorial Days, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ashley Keehn says sheriff’s deputies made contact with 2,240 individuals or groups on beaches over the three-day weekend. They issued 15 shelter-in-place citations and 107 parking citations. Keehn says parking citations were mostly on the North Coast, where deputies saw large crowds.
Later today, Newel is expected to release a revised shelter-in-place order allowing for more uses, including office spaces, car washes, pet grooming, and expanded childcare, as well as outdoor museums and open galleries in public spaces—all with modifications. Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he is paving the way for additional uses, including expanded retail and churches.
There have been 200 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday night by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 133 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been 94,558 Covid-19 cases and 3,795 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. Nationwide, the death count exceeds 98,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 1,662,000 total cases. Over the weekend, the New York Times ran an entire front page listing the names of many of those who have lost their lives, with a quick note about each of them. “They were not simply names on a list,” the Times wrote. “They were us.”
May 22, 6:30pm: County Sees Covid-19 Uptick, Clusters in Watsonville
Four clusters of Covid-19 cases have been identified in the Watsonville area, all of them associated with large family gatherings, Santa Cruz County officials announced Friday.
There have been at least 186 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the county, 78 of which have been linked to the Watsonville area. After initially showing signs of tapering off, the number of cases has increased 20% in a week’s time.
A county press release sent out Friday indicated that the recent loosening of restrictions and increased testing account for part of the jump, but the county says that the public’s failure to follow shelter-in-place orders contributed to the uptick. The nascent increase could jeopardize much-anticipated efforts to reopen more sectors of Santa Cruz County’s economy.
Investigations into the clusters are ongoing, but all have been attributed to close contact between households during family gatherings, including a multi-generational Mother’s Day celebration and another large assembly involving individuals who traveled from out of state.
In a video posted to social media, Watsonville City Manager Matt Huffaker called for the community to follow the county’s health orders during the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend.
Public Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel warned yesterday that, if the beaches become crowded this weekend, she’ll likely have to shut them down entirely for July 4.
Statewide as of Friday, there have been more than 88,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 3,600 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. Nationwide, there have been 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 94,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Globally, there have been close to 5 million cases and 320,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
May 21, 6pm: County to start reopening next week
A revised shelter-in-place order that will go into effect next week will put Santa Cruz County mostly in line with California’s roadmap for reopening.
The county’s new shelter-in-place order will take effect at 11:59pm Tuesday, May 26, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a press conference this morning. The county will have different restrictions than the state in three key areas, Newel said, including keeping the face covering requirement, restricting hotel, motel and vacation rental stays to only essential workers, and continuing limits on beach use. Otherwise, the county will align with state guidelines starting next week “assuming that there are no significant worrisome changes to our data” in the meantime, Newel said.
Earlier this week, the state relaxed its guidelines for counties to move into what state officials are calling “Stage 2” of a resilience roadmap, which allows for reopening of certain workplaces and resumption of activities considered low-risk. California’s statewide shelter-in-place order has been in effect since March 19.
Santa Cruz County has met all of the state indicators for moving into Stage 2 of reopening and is now working on applying for clearance from the state to proceed, county officials said today. That application will be up for approval by the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors at their June 2 meeting.
The county Health Services Agency also launched a new website showing its progress on reopening and providing information about its SAVE Lives initiative. Led by longtime health-care executive Margaret Lapiz, SAVE Lives will offer a framework for allowing businesses to reopen in compliance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide plan. The county’s SAVE Lives website offers industry-specific guidance on operations, information on the county Economic Recovery Council, and an interactive map with details for local testing sites, including who can be tested.
The website is at santacruzhealth.org/savelives.
There have been 174 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to updated information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 127 have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 84,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,436 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 20, 6pm: Tracking local Covid-19 cases
Around the country, the coronavirus is taking a disproportionately heavy toll on people in racial and ethnic minority groups, both in the number of cases of the illness and the death rate from it. Factors such as living conditions, work environments, underlying health conditions, and access to care may all play a role in these disparities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
California is no exception, with statewide data showing black and Latino Californians face a higher share of fatalities relative to their portion of the population, according to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times.
“It’s a perfect storm to create a disadvantage in these communities, that we need to respond to. And we are,” California’s state health officer Dr. Sonia Y. Angell told the New York Times last month.
In Santa Cruz County, some disparity can be seen in the rate of Covid-19 cases among Hispanic and Latino people compared to their share of the county’s population.
Of the 168 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County as of Tuesday, 40.48% have been among Hispanic and Latino people, who make up 34.1% of the county population according to U.S. Census Bureau Data. Another 54.76% of cases have been among white and Caucasian people, who make up 56.9% of the population, and 4.76% of cases have been among people who identify as another race or ethnicity.
Santa Cruz County health officials are also offering a look at where the Covid-19 cases have been locally. Watsonville has had the highest number of cases, with 60 known cases of Covid-19, followed by unincorporated parts of the county with 45 cases. There have been 43 cases in the city of Santa Cruz, six cases each in Capitola and Scotts Valley, and there are eight cases under investigation.
Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, 25 have needed hospitalization, and 125 have recovered. The county is regularly updating this information and has more details, including cases by age and gender, on their website.
Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 84,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,436 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 19, 1:30pm: Santa Cruz city offices reopening
After shutting down almost all in-person operations, the city of Santa Cruz has started reopening some of its public office counters, City Manager Martín Bernal announced in a May 17 newsletter email.
This week, the city clerk’s front desk is open, as is the fire administration’s office. Starting Tuesday, May 26, the public works counter will be open Monday-Friday from 7am-12pm to the public and from 12-3:30pm by appointment, city spokesperson Ralph Dimarucut says.
Bernal encourages residents to check the city’s website at cityofsantacruz.com before going in, as many services are available online. The city will update its website with additional information as other services open up. Bernal reminds members of the public that face coverings are mandatory, social distancing guidelines will be enforced, and anyone who’s sick should stay home.
Many local families and nonprofits need help, and the United Way of Santa Cruz County has announced that federal Emergency Food and Shelter money is available for emergency food and shelter programs in Santa Cruz County. Supplemental funds are also available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The total amount available locally is $340,000. The county’s Emergency Food and Shelter Board will determine how the funds get distributed after evaluating submitted proposals. Local government and private nonprofit organizations may be eligible to apply. For more information visit unitedwaysc.org/efsp. The application deadline is 4pm on Wednesday, May 27.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that 24 counties have self-attested and submitted containment strategies to the state, potentially allowing their stores to reopen for in-store shopping and their restaurants to reopen for on-site dining. Santa Cruz County is not among the listed counties.
The California counties that have applied are predominantly rural—the nearest one being San Benito County. Counties must meet certain benchmarks in order to reopen for additional uses.
There have been 165 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 125 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been more than 81,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,334 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
May 18, 4pm: Family food assistance available
A new state program will offer food support to families in need amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The program will provide access to food through a Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) card for families with children who receive free or reduced-price meals, according to a press release from the nonprofit group Community Bridges. Families will receive up to $365 per eligible child to use on food.
The new program “supports the nutritional needs of underserved children in our communities and is helping fill a gap where free school lunches and afterschool programs, who cannot operate or provide food, would usually help,” Community Bridges CEO Ray Cancino said in a statement.
Families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, but who do not receive CalFresh, CalWorks, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care, must apply online before June 30 to receive their P-EBT card. The online application will be available beginning Friday, May 22, at ca.p-ebt.org.
There have been 163 known Covid-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Sunday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from Covid-19, and 124 have recovered. Statewide as of Saturday, there have been more than 78,000 Covid-19 cases and 3,261 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 30, 4:30pm: New county order eases some restrictions
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel extended the county shelter-in-place order today, adding some beach limitations and easing other restrictions.
The revised order comes after more than a month of county requirements aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus locally. Some of the biggest changes, which will take effect at 11:59pm on Friday, May 1, include easing restrictions around moving residences and allowing activities such as construction, landscaping, real estate and golfing as long as people practice social distancing.
As we reported earlier, beaches will be entirely off-limits from 11am-5pm every day under the new order. People will be allowed to traverse beaches for water-based activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Outside of the 11am-5pm closures, people can also access beaches for “recreational activities to promote physical and mental health.”
The new order is in effect until further notice from the county, with no set expiration date.
There have been 131 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 88 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been more tham 48,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,900 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 30, 9am: County restricts beach access following weekend crowds
Santa Cruz County is putting new beach restrictions into effect starting this weekend, citing weekend crowds along the coastline.
Beaches will be off-limits from 11am-5pm as part of an updated shelter-in-place order expected to be issued this week by Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel.
People will be allowed to traverse beaches for water-based activities such as surfing, paddleboarding, boogie boarding, swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Outside of the 11am-5pm closures, people can also access beaches for “recreational activities to promote physical and mental health,” according to a county press release.
The county prohibits non-exercise related activities such as sitting, reclining, standing, sunbathing and sightseeing on beaches under restrictions already in place aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
“Despite warnings against travelling to Santa Cruz County for beach access and against congregating on beaches, local law enforcement spent the weekend responding to numerous issues all along our coastline,” Sheriff Jim Hart said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these actions are necessary to protect the health and welfare of our most vulnerable residents. The Sheriff’s Office, the police departments and State Parks will do everything we can to support the Health Officer and enforce her revised order.”
April 29, 1:15pm: County selects recovery leader
Santa Cruz County has selected a leader to steer the community through reopening after more than a month of restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Margaret Lapiz will lead SAVE Lives Santa Cruz County. She “will work with the County Health Services Agency with support from Community Foundation Santa Cruz County to increase COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and quarantine/isolation services,” according to a county press release issued today.
Lapiz brings 25 years of experience in health care operations and strategy. She was previously an executive vice president for the Permanente Medical Group and supported leadership program expansions at Netflix and the Aspen Institute. Lapiz has an MBA and Masters of Public Health from UC Berkeley.
Funding secured by Community Foundation Santa Cruz County will help cover costs related to the reopening effort, “including Lapiz’ position, enhanced testing capabilities, and contact tracing systems,” according to the county.
“As we continue the hard work of flattening the curve, we must turn an eye towards large-scale recovery efforts,” Mimi Hall, director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, said in a statement. “The County is committed to easing the shelter-in-place restrictions so we can jumpstart our economy, but we must have safeguards in place.”
There have been 127 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Tuesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 83 have recovered. Statewide, as of Monday, there have been more than 45,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,800 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 23, 2:30pm: Face coverings will be required starting Friday night
A face coverings requirement will go into effect at 11:59pm Friday under an order signed today by Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel. It will be in effect until further notice from Newel.
The order, aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, generally requires businesses to take measures such as posting signs reminding people to wear face coverings.
Wearing face coverings during outdoor exercise is “recommended but not required.” People are still required to maintain at least six feet of separation from each other.
As we reported Tuesday, the order does not apply to children under the age of 12. Children under two years old are not supposed to wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
Read the full order here for more details on the requirements and exceptions: bit.ly/SCCfacecoverings. There have been 114 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 62 have recovered. Statewide as of Tuesday, there have been more than 35,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,300 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 21, 1:30pm: Face covering requirement coming soon
Santa Cruzans will soon be required to wear face coverings for many trips out of their homes under a new county order coming this week.
The order will come from Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel, according to a county press release issued today.
The order “will follow new requirements in place throughout much of the Bay Area, and is intended to further slow the spread of novel coronavirus,” according to the press release. “The order impacts public, commercial and governmental spaces where face-to-face interactions may pose a risk of transmission, including grocery stores, health care offices, restaurant pickup counters, public transit, essential government offices and more.”
An exception to the order will be in cases when people can engage in outdoor recreation while practicing social distancing. The order will also not apply to children under the age of 12. Children under two years old are not supposed to wear face coverings due to the risk of suffocation.
The CDC has a guide on how to make, wear and clean homemade face coverings. Medical-grade masks such as surgical masks and N95 masks are still in short supply, and the county is asking that such gear be reserved for health care workers and first responders. Anyone wishing to donate medical-grade masks can find out how to do so at santacruzcounty.us/ppedonate.
There are 108 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Monday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 56 have recovered. Statewide as of Sunday, there have been more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,200 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 16, 5:30pm: County questions summer Boardwalk opening, then backtracks
After saying at a press conference this morning that the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk likely won’t open this summer, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel issued a statement saying no decision has been made yet.
“I would like to clarify that no decision has been made to close the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk or any other business” beyond the county’s current shelter-in-place order, which expires May 3, she said in a written statement. “While Gov. Newsom has signaled that large gatherings of people maybe difficult for the foreseeable future, I and other health officers throughout the Bay Area are working together to consider a replacement order allowing some activities to resume. I want to stress, however, that speculation about future operations at this time is premature.”
At this morning’s press conference, Newel had said: “I don’t anticipate that the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will open this summer at all. There are no anticipated mass gatherings—or really gatherings of any size—for a long time to come.”
There are 96 known COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided Wednesday by county health officials. Two people in the county have died from COVID-19, and 41 have recovered. Statewide as of Wednesday, there have been more than 26,000 COVID-19 cases and 890 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 14, 6pm: City cancels several summer events
The City of Santa Cruz Parks and Recreation Department announced today it is cancelling several summer events. The cancellations include the Japanese Cultural Fair, Juneteenth, Woodies on the Wharf, and the Church Street Fair.
A city press release noted these events “draw people from all over the world,” and “these cancellations are being made out of deep concern for the health and safety of the community.”
Santa Cruz Mayor Justin Cummings has ordered city flags to fly at half-staff from April 16-18 to honor the sacrifices of public safety workers, health care workers, and other essential employees nationwide “who have lost their lives while trying to help and protect communities from COVID-19.”
AFSCME issued a press release about the county’s second COVID-19 death, which we reported on in our live blog update earlier today. AFSCME Local 3299 said the man was a campus shuttle driver at UCSC and a member of the employee union.
“This morning, we learned that we had lost one of our valued union brothers, a devoted father and grandfather who was equally beloved by his colleagues and students at UC Santa Cruz,” the group said in a press release. “Our hearts are heavy, and go out to his family and all who are suffering due to COVID-19.”
The group also called on UC administrators to “take immediate steps to better protect workers—by ensuring they all have access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and by allowing older or medically vulnerable workers to stay home without threat to their jobs.”
April 14, 11:20am: County’s second death from the coronavirus
A second Santa Cruz County resident has died from the coronavirus, health officials said today.
The man was in his late 60s and had an underlying health condition. He was admitted to a local hospital on April 9, county officials said in a press release, tested positive for COVID-19, and died early today. He worked at a local university and caught the coronavirus from community spread.
“This man was a father and grandfather and I want to express my deepest sympathies to his family,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a statement. “This second death shows how serious the virus is and how necessary it is for our community to continue to shelter in place.”
The first death in the county from the coronavirus was on March 28. The man was in his early 70s and had an underlying health condition.
April 13, 5pm: City measure aims to help restaurants
With many restaurants relying on delivery as a business lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic, Santa Cruz City Manager Martín Bernal is limiting the commissions that third-party food delivery companies can charge.
Bernal signed an executive order today limiting the commissions to 15% in an effort to help ease the financial burden on restaurants. The county and statewide shelter-in-place orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus mean restaurants can’t serve patrons inside.
“Our restaurants who have been able to adapt to a takeout and delivery model have done so at a high cost,” Santa Cruz’s Director of Economic Development Bonnie Lipscomb said in a statement. “This order should help relieve some of the financial burden they have been carrying in order to keep their business open during the pandemic.”
Santa Cruz County approved a 15% commission limit today, too.
There are 91 known cases of the coronavirus in Santa Cruz County, according to information provided this morning by county officials. One person in the county has died from COVID-19, and 37 have recovered. Statewide as of today, there have been 21,794 COVID-19 cases and 651 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.
April 3, 3:45pm: Vacation rentals temporarily banned
Santa Cruz County spokesperson Jason Hoppin has released a statement saying that vacation rentals must comply with the new shelter-in-place order, and they are not allowed to operate under the health directive, which will be in place locally through at least May 3.
Only essential businesses are allowed to operate under the order. Travel is prohibited, except when necessary for essential services. Vacation rental owners may still provide short-term housing for essential workers, like emergency and public safety personnel.
Property owners should not use vacation rental properties to shelter in place if they have to leave another county to come here. All vacation bookings not currently in effect should be cancelled through May 3, according to a county press release. The county encourages current vacation rental occupants to return home unless they have no other place to go or are unable to safely travel. Sheriff Jim Hart and other county officials have said that failing to comply with the order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both.
For weeks, health officials said there was no reason for Americans to wear masks in public. Now, new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and California’s public health officials, including from Santa Cruz County, states that covering one’s face with masks, bandannas and neck gaiters is an advisable way to slow the spread of disease. Health experts do not recommend that the public use medical masks, like N-95 respirators, which are in limited supply and in demand by first responders and other health care workers.
Public life and public spaces have obviously changed since the shelter-in-place order took effect last month, Jump bikes left Santa Cruz recently, and the bike-share program will remain temporarily suspended while the shelter-in-place order is in effect. Many parks and beaches around the state have closed. County Public Health Officer Gail Newel says she has not done that for county parks and beaches, and she believes county residents have by and large been following physical distancing guidelines and keeping at least six feet from one another. She threatened to close parks if she feels that it becomes necessary and that locals aren’t abiding by the rules.
The county has announced 59 cases of COVID-19 locally and one death.
April 1, 12:05pm: Shelter-in-place extended through May 3
The shelter-in-place order for Santa Cruz County has been extended through May 3.
The revised order, issued March 31 by County Health Officer Gail Newel, carries forward the requirement that residents stay home unless absolutely necessary for “essential” activities. That includes trips to the grocery store, bank, gas station, hardware store, and pharmacy. People can leave their homes for exercise or to take care of a family member or pet, as long as they don’t congregate in groups and keep six feet from people who don’t live in the same home.
The order could be extended past its new May 3 end date if needed to protect public health amid the coronavirus outbreak. There’s also still a statewide shelter-in-place order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The county said residents must comply with whichever is stricter of the two. If the state order lifts before the county one does, the county restrictions will still be in place. Statewide, California Superintendent Tony Thurmond has confirmed that schools likely won’t reopen by summer.
Locally, Santa Cruz County’s health leaders have launched a task force, with support from the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville, to oversee homeless services amid the COVID-19 outbreak. For more in-depth news, check out GT’s coronavirus-related stories in this week’s issue—covering topics like Santa Cruz’s preparedness for a looming COVID-19 surge, the virus’ strain on grocery workers, what the pandemic means for UCSC students and other stories.
March 31, 3:10pm: Smoke Shop closes again
831 Smoke Shop has closed both of its locations after getting a visit from a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy, informing a store employee that the shop was a non-essential business operating in violation of the county’s shelter-in-place order.
Last week, GT reported that the shop had reopened, and it was selling products like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, disinfectant wipes, toilet paper, and bottled water. The store’s owner Jacob Alquadri told GT News Editor Jacob Pierce that shoppers would also be able to purchase cigarettes and other tobacco products. Now, the shop owner’s wife tells us that customers were only ever allowed to buy essential goods, like cleaning supplies, in the briefly reopened smoke shop—not any smoking products. The woman, who asked not to be named, says there must have been a miscommunication between the writer and the owner, who’s from Yemen, due to a language barrier.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County has climbed to 49 as of this morning. There have been no new reported deaths since the county’s first, which happened on Saturday, March 28.
In California as of Monday, March 30, there have been 6,932 positive cases of the coronavirus and 150 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there have been 163,539 cases and 2,860 deaths nationwide. Internationally, the globe has surpassed 750,000 cases and 36,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
March 30, 12:30pm: County’s first death from the coronavirus
Santa Cruz County health officials confirmed the county’s first death from the coronavirus this weekend.
The man who died Saturday was in his early 70s and had an underlying health condition, the county’s Health Services Agency announced Sunday. He had been admitted to a local hospital on March 19 with symptoms including fever and shortness of breath, County Health Officer Gail Newel said in a press release. Our sister paper, the Pajaronian, has more.
There are 45 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the county as of the most recent count provided today by health officials.
Social distancing efforts appear to be helping slow the spread of the coronavirus. We have more on that in a story here.
Here’s what else is happening lately in response to the coronavirus:
- The county’s METRO service is doing its part by issuing a reminder to riders that they should only be traveling for essential activities. Passengers may only board with belongings that are for essential activities. For more info, visit scmtd.com.
- Community Bridges has four Family Resource Centers that are providing support to people affected by the coronavirus. The centers are open on a drop-in basis to assist with accessing benefits such as unemployment, state disability, family and medical leave, CalFresh, and emergency enrollment in Covered California. More information about each center can be found at communitybridges.org/programs.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom launched an effort today aimed at rapidly expanding the state’s health care workforce. He called for all “health care professionals with an active license, public health professionals, medical retirees, medical and nursing students, or members of medical disaster response teams” to join the California Health Corps. More information on how to register is available at healthcorps.ca.gov. Newsom also signed an executive order to assist with the push for expanding the health care workforce “to staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds the state needs to treat COVID-19 patients.”
March 28, 8:15pm: Expected surge in cases could strain local hospitals
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel told KSBW on Friday that the local Health Services Agency is expecting a surge in cases of the new coronavirus that will exceed the current capacity of beds. There are 39 confirmed cases in the county, as of the tally provided Friday by officials.
In addition to existing brick-and-mortar hospitals, the county has a temporary hospital facility in Watsonville that could be deployed, and it’s in the process of setting up alternate care sites.
We’ve asked county leaders about the local capacity for beds and about the availability of COVID-19 tests. Officials have not yet responded. We’ll provide an update here when they do.
Over the past week, Yelp partnered with GoFundMe to create fundraisers for small businesses, given the strain that the pandemic is having on the economy. The arrangement drew a swift backlash after many business owners began to publicly ask why they weren’t contacted before the pages launched. Here in Santa Cruz County, fundraiser pages for both Zachary’s and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing have come down. Many others are still up.
We reported Friday that the state was closing several local state parks and beaches to vehicular traffic. The city of Santa Cruz added to those closures by blocking off parking lots on West Cliff Drive, including ones at Cowell Beach, Steamer Lane and Lighthouse Field. Residents may get out of the house for exercise, but the government requires everyone must keep at least six feet from one another when they do so.
The Santa Cruz parks department is promoting ways to recreate remotely. For more information, visit cityofsantacruz.com/virtualrecreation.
Lastly, the city’s Public Works Department has made announcements of its own. Through April 10, residents may leave out an extra bag of trash for garbage collection at no extra cost. The bag may go on top of or next to city trash bins.
Officials also want to remind city residents not to flush wipes, feminine products, diaper liners or plastic dog waste bags down their toilets. During the early phases of panic buying a few weeks ago, many wipes began flying off store shelves. Some wipes are touted as “flushable” or “biodegradable.” They are not. Such products can create sewer back-ups. They belong in the trash.
March 27, 5:25pm: UCSC student tests positive
UCSC leaders have announced the first positive case of COVID-19 in the university community. The student was last on campus March 16 and is doing well, according to the announcement.
School administrators are coordinating with public health officials to determine whether other members of the campus community may have been exposed. Earlier today, the county’s Health Services Agency announced that the number of local cases had climbed to 34.
The Washington Post and New York Times are both reporting that the U.S., which recorded its first confirmed case two months ago, now has more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, as reported by state health departments. The nation first passed 10,000 cases on March 19. On Thursday, the U.S. became the country with the most confirmed cases.
President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act today to make General Motors manufacture ventilators to help fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
March 27, 11am: Some state parks closed
Anyone looking to drive into the woods in order to blow off some steam might want to make sure the roads are open first.
California Parks and Recreation began closing some public lands to vehicular traffic earlier this week. As revealed on the Santa Cruz County Twitter feed yesterday, that includes some local parks and beaches. As of this morning the affected spaces include Castle Rock State Park, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Manresa State Beach, Natural Bridges State Beach, New Brighton State Beach, Seacliff State Beach, and the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.
Under the shelter-in-place orders that are in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Cruz County residents are allowed to leave the house for exercise, as long as they stay at least six feet from others.
As of yesterday, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency updated the count of confirmed local COVID-19 cases to 32, and the California Department of Health announced that the number statewide is up to 3,006. There have been 65 deaths statewide. The county has not reported any local deaths from the virus.
In case you missed it, non-essential businesses are still closed, but a local smoke shop reopened after it began selling medical supplies, cleaning supplies and bottled water. Also, our writer Wallce Baine talked with Bookshop Santa Cruz operator-owner Casey Coonerty Protti about how her business is coping with these times.
March 26, 10:45am: Protecting the front line
Here’s a way to help the health care workers on the front line of the coronavirus response: Santa Cruz County set up an online system for anyone wishing to donate personal protective equipment.
The equipment has been in short supply nationwide as health care workers treat the influx of patients with COVID-19. There are more than 68,000 cases in the country, according to the latest tally by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Santa Cruz County has 25 confirmed cases.
Groups or individuals with extra personal protective equipment can fill out a form to start the process at santacruzhealth.org/ppedonate.
Equipment they are seeking includes:
- Eye protection such as goggles and face shields;
- Antibacterial and disinfecting wipes, typically alcohol or bleach based (unopened). No baby wipes;
- N-95 and surgical masks (in unopened containers/boxes);
- Medical gowns, including disposable gowns, as well as cloth surgical and hospital gowns in good condition.
Also, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC this morning that most Americans will be receiving stimulus checks within the next three weeks. After a unanimous 96-0 Senate vote to approve the measure, the House now has to approve the package before it goes to President Donald Trump’s desk.
The cash transfers would come in the form of direct deposits from the federal government. Under the plan, a $1,200 deposit would go to most adults who make $75,000 or less annually, according to past tax returns. A $500 payment would also be sent to cover every child in qualifying households. The plan additionally includes more than $600 billion in business loans, beefed-up unemployment insurance, expanded health care funds and increased aid to state and local governments.
In case you’ve missed the recent coverage in our sister paper, the Pajaronian, Santa Cruz Superior Court started holding some judicial proceedings outdoors on the courthouse steps. Meanwhile, the California National Guard has been helping with Second Harvest Food Bank distributions. Suzanne Willis, Second Harvest’s development and marketing officer, noted that the officials are not there for immigration enforcement.
March 24, 5pm: Food Not Bombs, city of Santa Cruz spar over homeless responses
A war of words has erupted in Santa Cruz between the city and Food Not Bombs over the way each has responded locally to the COVID-19 pandemic that now stretches across the globe.
Last night, Keith McHenry spent $5,000 toward renting hotel rooms and handing out 81 vouchers for those rooms to local homeless people. In a blog post, Santa Cruz Police Chief Andy Mills criticized McHenry, the cofounder for Food Not Bombs, for not complying with social distancing requirements mandating that everyone stay at least six feet from one another. He accused McHenry of staging a rally last night. “Gathering in large groups is reckless, irresponsible, and is a crime we enforce,” Mills wrote.
McHenry says it wasn’t a rally, at all. “It was survival,” he tells GT. McHenry says that homeless people came out to the clock tower on the corner of Water Street and Pacific Avenue to get his hotel vouchers. More than an additional 100 showed up who he was not able to give vouchers to. McHenry says he has been trying to get homeless people to keep six feet from another, but he adds that it can be difficult because many of them can be very distrusting. Consequently, they view the pandemic as a hoax. “It’s a big pain in the ass, getting people to social distance,” he says.
McHenry says the city should be more concerned with complying with social distancing at the Salvation Army’s Laurel Street shelter than bugging him about his group’s gatherings.
McHenry also runs through a list of people who he believes he will be feeding after the crisis continues and triggers a global crash, a chain of events that he considers an inevitability. “I’ll be feeding Mills and his family if they stick around Santa Cruz,” McHenry says. “I will be feeding Martín Bernal and his family—and Justin Cummings. I’ll be feeding him.”
March 24, 12:30pm: Eviction moratoriums approved
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency announced more cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total number of local cases up to 24. The county has not reported any deaths from the virus.
This morning, the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed a moratorium on evictions for commercial and residential tenants. The Watsonville City Council passed similar protections last night, and the Santa Cruz City Council will consider such a measure later today.
In terms of comparatively good news, Keith McHenry announced that the Santa Cruz Chapter of the California Homeless Union Officers and Food Not Bombs housed 81 people last night in local hotels. Food Not Bombs spent $5,000 yesterday on hotel rooms for the homeless, McHenry reports. He says the group needs another $5,000 today. For information, including how to donate, visit foodnotbombs.net.
March 23, 3:30pm: Being beach savvy; divvying out protective equipment
There are now 22 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county, according to the tally provided today by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency.
As the virus continues spreading, Santa Cruz County officials urged travelers to avoid crowding the beaches. Outdoor exercise is allowed and encouraged as long as it follows social distancing guidelines, officials noted, but “large gatherings are a violation of local and state orders meant to protect the health and safety of all Californians.” Violations are subject to citation and arrest.
“Santa Cruz County is a popular destination for college students during this time of year,” Sheriff Jim Hart said in a press release. “However, the County is asking everyone to adjust their routines in order to protect everyone’s health including their own, as well as the operations of our critical health care infrastructure.”
The shelter-in-place orders issued in Santa Cruz County and statewide are aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 30,000 people nationwide and hundreds of thousands globally.
The county is releasing nearly all of its stockpile of 27,000 N95 masks to local healthcare facilities including hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and emergency medical services providers. Distribution “will be done according to highest medical priority” amid a global scarcity of masks. Personal protective equipment that healthcare providers need, including gowns, coveralls, goggles, face shields, and respiratory masks, is in short supply.
March 20, 4:25pm: Triage facilities for the homeless, reevaluating evictions, and more
It can be difficult for Santa Cruz’s homeless residents to comply with social distancing guidelines calling for everyone to stay at least six feet from one another.
With that in mind, the city of Santa Cruz has announced new triage centers to help homeless individuals who wish to get out of encampments—as reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The first such facility opened today at Lot 17, across the street from the Kaiser Permanente Arena. A similar facility will likely open on Coral Street, near the Housing Matters campus. Others could soon be on the way. The Lot 17 site has tents with adequate spacing between them. Individuals do not need to be showing symptoms in order to be admitted. The idea is to get the homeless out of encampments.
“There’s a recognition that obviously we have to protect members of the homeless community that are out and about and who could potentially be hugely impacted by the virus—as well as impact the wider community,” City Manager Martín Bernal tells GT. Bernal credits Susie O’Hara, assistant to the city manager, with leading the charge on this issue.
Although the homeless are exempted from shelter-in-place orders, Gov. Gavin Newsom and local health officials have been talking all week about finding ways to protect them.
Some individuals may be moved to other facilities, like hospitals or hotel rooms within 72 hours, if they need additional attention. The city has also installed hand-washing facilities around town.
“What we’re really trying to do is protect the health and safety of our community and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” says Mayor Justin Cummings.
• The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency posted on its website that there has been another confirmed case of COVID-19 in the county, bringing the total number of known cases locally up to 15. The county has seen no reported deaths from the virus. Statewide, there have been 1,006 positive cases and 19 deaths, according to the state health department.
• The strict shelter-in-place order—mandating that residents stay home, unless absolutely necessary for “essential” activities—just got a lot bigger. Last night, Gov. Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order, similar to one that was already in effect in Santa Cruz County and surrounding areas.
• Community Bridges announced Thursday that it is expanding its Lift Line services to all Santa Cruz County seniors over the age of 60 and people with disabilities, regardless of income. The program provides free transportation for grocery store trips and essential medical appointments. To schedule, call Lift Line at 688-9663, Monday-Friday 8am-4pm or Saturday-Sunday 8am-3:30pm. If possible, call one or two days in advance.
• Congressmember Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel) will host a telephone town hall on the local and federal response to COVID-19 tonight at 6pm. Healthcare professionals and members of the Small Business Administration will join him. Click here to sign up or visit panetta.house.gov for more information.
• Santa Cruz METRO is making changes to its schedule effective Monday, with all service running on the Saturday-Sunday schedule until further notice. For full schedule and timetable information, visit scmtd.com.
• Both the Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to consider moratoriums on evictions for commercial and residential properties at their March 24 meetings. The city is encouraging people to participate online or via Community Television since there will be limited seating due to the public health requirement that people maintain a six-foot distance from others. Public comments can be sent to the city clerk for inclusion during the meeting. For more info, visit: cityofsantacruz.com/government/city- council/council-meetings.
• The Sentinel reported that 99 Bottles will be closing indefinitely. Owner Mia Bossie cited COVID-19 as the reason. “There’s just no way we’re going to survive this,” she told the Sentinel.
March 19, 3:45pm: The community mobilizes
Santa Cruz County officials set up a call center to help answer residents’ questions about the coronavirus outbreak. You can call 454-4242 from 8am-6pm, Monday-Friday. Residents will be directed to the appropriate resources when calling that number.
Citing “overwhelming call volume,” the county is asking people to refrain from calling the County’s Public Health Division or Communicable Disease Unit. People can visit santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus for up-to-date information that may answer many questions.
A free webinar will be held Friday, March 20, at 3pm to provide guidance and resources for businesses. The webinar will be shown on CommunityTV and streamed on the County’s Facebook page, or it can be viewed here: zoom.us/j/589373809.
Volunteers created a hub of information to help with technical support for students who are learning at home and residents who are working from home. They are offering support with networking or technical issues, and they are looking for people willing to help provide this kind of assistance. To learn more, visit cruz.one.
Community Foundation Santa Cruz County created a Local Response Fund with a focus on assisting residents facing financial hardships caused by the public health emergency. The fund will provide financial support for groups in Santa Cruz County that serve vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 response.
Tax-deductible donations can be made at cfscc.org/donate/COVID. Donations will be accepted as long as the need continues. Contact the Community Foundation at 662-2061 or [email protected] for help making a donation.
March 19, 2:30pm: Life during shelter-in-place
The Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency announced that, as of Wednesday, there are now 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county.
In case you missed it, our sister paper the Pajaronian ran a guide of what is and isn’t allowed while the shelter-in-place order is in effect. We’ve added this to our continually growing list of resources about the coronavirus and understanding the impacts locally.
Also, while the sheriff has the authority to make arrests and issue fines of up to $1,000 to people violating the shelter-in-place order, he says doing so will not be the priority of his deputies. Santa Cruz Superior Court announced changes, including the delay of all criminal, civil and probate cases until April 17. Santa Cruz METRO buses are still running. As we reported Wednesday, some grocery stores have introduced senior-only hours at the beginning of each shopping day.
March 17, 4pm: First responders prepare
Fire departments in Santa Cruz County are testing quick response vehicles to “better respond to calls and protect residents and first responders,” according to a county press release. This will help all local fire agencies be ready if there is increased call demand.
Before residents call 911, county health officials are asking people to:
- Consider home isolation and self-treatment if experiencing mild symptoms like cough
- Call a local clinic or your primary care physician for instructions on treatment
March 17: More confirmed cases
The total number of confirmed cases in Santa Cruz County reached 13, according to health officials. The latest tally is continually displayed on the county Health Services Agency page.
March 17, 7am: Police operations
Santa Cruz City Police said they are adopting “preventative operational protocols” to help ensure the health of personnel and the community. Their guidance includes:
- Officers may ask to speak with complainants outdoors when possible and will try to keep a distance of 5-6 feet between people.
- Officers will have the discretion to handle some complaints by phone.
- Some thefts, frauds, or minor incidents (that are not in progress) may be triaged over the phone and determined if an additional in-person response is needed.
- Written statements can be emailed to officers.
March 16, 7:45pm: Business resources
In response to the shelter-in-place order across the county that required any non-essential businesses to close, the City of Santa Cruz’s Economic Development Department is compiling information to help businesses. Business leaders can find resources about emerging state and federal programs providing assistance in the wake of the public health emergency. The U.S. Small Business Administration will be providing disaster loans for businesses in the county.
March 16: Shelter-in-place issued
Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel issued a shelter-in-place order directing residents to only leave their house for essential activities such as trips to the grocery store, bank, gas station, hardware store, and pharmacy. The order is in effect through April 7, though it could be extended. Read the full order.